Monday, November 23, 2015

Have you written your autobituary?

I went to a memorial service a couple of afternoons ago.  She was seventy.

The family, friends, and students who spoke described her as an unstoppable force with a bundle of energy.  They recalled poignant moments that they had shared with her.  One of the many thoughts that I had while listening to them, and watching the photo slideshow, was this: "too bad she is not here to listen to all these wonderful things."

Life is fragile.  It could be a heart attack.  Or a natural disaster. Or a senseless random shooting.  Whatever.  Gone in a minute.  Or maybe a year.  There is always that unpredictability.

A great-uncle of mine, who was as cantankerous as he was smart, knew well that he had made enough mistakes in his life and had caused problems for quite a few, even while being gregarious and magnanimous in many situations.  He commented more than once that after his death many would express relief that he was finally gone.  The remaining, he said, would ask, "oh, really, there was a guy like that?"

Recalling that uncle, I wondered if we all know within us what people might feel after they come to know that we died.  Maybe the seventy-year old professor also knew exactly how her colleagues, family, and students--and even acquaintances like me--will remember her?

If that is the case, it also means that we have plenty of control over how we would like to be remembered.  If I behave like an asshole, I know I will be remembered that I was an asshole.  I then have a choice--either I can continue to be an asshole, or I can change my behavior.

So, if people do not change their awful behaviors, then is it because they really, really want to be remembered that way, or is it that they lack that metacognition skills?  Do they care not about what will be said in their obituaries?

Especially in this selfie world, we need people to think about their autobituary.  It is important, now more than ever, that people understand that it is not our selfies that people will remember about us after we are gone.

How do you want to be remembered?

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